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Medicine LibreTexts

23: The Digestive System

  • 23.0: Introduction
    The digestive system is continually at work, yet people seldom appreciate the complex tasks it performs in a choreographed biologic symphony.
  • 23.1: Overview of the Digestive System
    The function of the digestive system is to break down the foods you eat, release their nutrients, and absorb those nutrients into the body. Although the small intestine is the workhorse of the system, where the majority of digestion occurs, and where most of the released nutrients are absorbed into the blood or lymph, each of the digestive system organs makes a vital contribution to this process.
  • 23.2: Digestive System Processes and Regulation
    The digestive system uses mechanical and chemical activities to break food down into absorbable substances during its journey through the digestive system. The processes of digestion include six activities: ingestion, propulsion, mechanical or physical digestion, chemical digestion, absorption, and defecation.
  • 23.3: The Mouth, Pharynx, and Esophagus
    In this section, you will examine the anatomy and functions of the three main organs of the upper alimentary canal—the mouth, pharynx, and esophagus—as well as three associated accessory organs—the tongue, salivary glands, and teeth.
  • 23.4: The Stomach
    Although a minimal amount of carbohydrate digestion occurs in the mouth, chemical digestion really gets underway in the stomach. An expansion of the alimentary canal that lies immediately inferior to the esophagus, the stomach links the esophagus to the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum) and is relatively fixed in place at its esophageal and duodenal ends. In between, however, it can be a highly active structure, contracting and continually changing position and size.
  • 23.5: The Small and Large Intestines
    The word intestine is derived from a Latin root meaning “internal,” and indeed, the two organs together nearly fill the interior of the abdominal cavity. In addition, called the small and large bowel, or colloquially the “guts,” they constitute the greatest mass and length of the alimentary canal and, with the exception of ingestion, perform all digestive system functions.
  • 23.6: Accessory Organs in Digestion: The Liver, Pancreas, and Gallbladder
    Chemical digestion in the small intestine relies on the activities of three accessory digestive organs: the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder (Figure 23.6.1). The digestive role of the liver is to produce bile and export it to the duodenum. The gallbladder primarily stores, concentrates, and releases bile. The pancreas produces pancreatic juice, which contains digestive enzymes and bicarbonate ions, and delivers it to the duodenum.
  • 23.7: Chemical Digestion and Absorption - A Closer Look
    As you have learned, the process of mechanical digestion is relatively simple. It involves the physical breakdown of food but does not alter its chemical makeup. Chemical digestion, on the other hand, is a complex process that reduces food into its chemical building blocks, which are then absorbed to nourish the cells of the body. In this section, you will look more closely at the processes of chemical digestion and absorption.